Mutual-Aid Practice with Short-Term Groups
Definitions of short term vary across areas of professional expertise and work settings-even across regions, cultures, and generations. In some settings a group that meets six times is considered short term, and in others twenty meetings may be considered short term. Here, the short-term group is conceptualized as a small closed system that meets from about two to twelve times. Clearly, the issues and implications presented in this chapter will apply somewhat differentially according to a group’s actual time line. Mutual-aid practice with a
group that meets twice will probably need many of the same considerations as single-session practice, whereas working with a short-term closed system over ten or twelve sessions may well take on some of the look and feel of working with a longer-term group, such as taking a back seat in several group-governance functions (see Chapter 6). As James Garland (1992) states, it has been well documented that short-term groups can offer much, such as “support and stabilization in times of crisis, focused education around the acquisition of social skills, aiding stage transitions and enabling mobilization for collective work and social action” (p. 1). And as Northen and Kurland (2001) more recently elaborate:
[S]hort-term groups . . . can be quite effective in meeting numerous needs and purposes that are more circumscribed in nature . . . to prepare their participants for a new role or situation, for example, becoming a nursing home resident, entering a new school; to provide education, particularly when the focus is on presenting a limited amount of content within an atmosphere that makes possible some expression of feelings and ideas and some modification of attitudes and behavior, for example, becoming a foster parent, understanding the needs of an adolescent child, undergoing a particular medical procedure; to help people cope with personal or family crises, for example, a child’s suspension from school, the illness of a parent or sibling [as well as] for diagnostic purposes by a worker, especially with children, to clarify through direct observation the ways in which problems of children are manifested in social situations.